Someone once wisely told me that “leaders are readers and readers are leaders.” I believe it. The wisest and most effective leaders I know are women and men who read regularly, passionately, and widely. In this age filled with technological distraction, it’s especially important that parents, pastors, and youth workers are unplugging and reading. . . regularly, passionately, and widely.
I think that it’s important that our motivation for reading should not be leading. Rather, it should be learning. Do that, I believe, and the leading will naturally follow.
One of my reading targets in recent years has been to read dead people. You’ll never find these folks on the best-seller lists or on the front table of new releases at the Barnes and Noble bookstore. But you will find them at places that are more concerned about feeding readers than making money. . . like my friend Byron Borger’s Hearts & Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA. Ask a reader for recommendations on who the best dead people to read are, and you’ll get plenty of recommendations.
Last year one of the dead people I read was Samuel Rutherford. The rich little volume, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, contains 69 letters written by the Scottish pastor when he was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. There’s not fast reading here, not because of difficulty in understanding, but in the time needed to process the wealth contained in each sentence. The dead folks somehow knew how to fill a page with meaning, rather than with an endless stream of unnecessary words.
One of the letters Rutherford wrote was to a young man. . . perhaps a teenager. . . named William Livingstone. The letter was written on March 13, 1637. . . almost 400 years ago! Do you know what I love about Rutherford’s letter to young Bill? He is honest. He is telling the kid the truth. He loves and cares for him enough to not tiptoe around or mince words. He doesn’t market the Gospel. He simply communicates it and leaves it in the hands of the Holy Spirit to do with what the Holy Spirit will. I think that for parents, pastors, and youth workers in today’s world, there’s something to learn from both the form and content of Rutherford’s message to Livingstone. It’s as relevant now as it was then. . .
“. . . a young man is often a dressed lodging for the devil to dwell in. . . I recommend to you prayer and watching over the sins of your youth; for I know that missive letters go between the devil and young blood. Satan hath a friend at court in the heart of youth; and there pride, luxury, lust, revenge, forgetfulness of God, are hired as his agents. Happy is your soul if Christ man the house, and take the keys Himself, and command all (as it suiteth Him full well to rule all wherever He is). Keep and entertain Christ well; cherish His grace; blow upon you own coal, and let Him tutor you.” (p.66)